2007 Versus 2017: Goals, Goals, Goals

Hello, everyone.  I know New Year’s treated you well.  I spent my three-day weekend at home and enjoyed a slight decrease (much to my appreciation) in fireworks exposure.  My new neighbors don’t seem to go quite as crazy as the ones I had in the Willows neighborhood in Gilbert.  If you like fireworks, you might enjoy a stroll through this neighborhood on the 4th of July or New Year’s Eve; I anticipate in a neighborhood of 586 houses so long as the Town of Gilbert permits fireworks, people will set up small fireworks shows just outside their front doors.  For today though, I’ll like to start my first 2007 versus 2017 post.

2007 was important for me because I completed my active duty service with the Marine Corps and started to explore what life beyond the Corps would look and feel like, my taste of adult freedom if you will.  I won’t say I made smart money moves back then so as we begin this new journey looking back and discussing my future in 2017, please know I will likely discuss money a lot.  My financial needs were met very well on active duty; Thomas and I did not have any kids while I was serving and we both collected a housing allowance.  Since we both served, we received one full housing allowance and the other received a partial housing allowance.  I do apologize that I do not recall the actual monetary amounts because I understand this knowledge aids our conversation greatly.  All too often, a young service member will complain about not having sufficient pay for food, housing, etc.  but for our household size and relative expenses, we always came out ahead even after I separated until we moved to Wyoming in 2009.  Stories for another day I know, but the short version is that many of our expenses, fixed and variable, remained the same and our housing allowance decreased significantly.

In 2007, I had some lofty wedding reception ambitions, as you can see from my journal entry below.  While we never ended up having our wedding reception the reality is I spent a significant amount of time planning for a costly one-day event.  On the skinny spending side, I think we were looking at $8,000 to $10,000 for the venue, a photographer, hotel rooms, travel, food, etc.  The dream was dropped before anything was booked but not until after I purchased my wedding gown (we got married through the Justice of the Peace in 2006) and picked up some small wedding related items.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-11-29-45-am

My desire to control my personal finances did not truly begin until we moved to Wyoming. Our crash course in the broke life lead us to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  Being introduced to Dave Ramsey’s program through friends and their church, we made headway towards undoing the financial damage.  It’s not fun, but without the substantial housing allowance we received in California, we had to take a serious look at our finances. Throughout the years, we’ve still struggled to stay on the Dave Ramsey path so I still refer back to the books and resources.  My in-laws also added more Dave Ramsey resources to our collection.  Additionally, I kept my Financial Planning notebook from my undergraduate studies because I want to ensure I update our financial goals (i.e. retirement planning, life insurance planning, etc.) as our family needs change over time.

With my husband still in school, 2017 does not wear the carefree face our lives did in 2007.  We just don’t have that same amount of money to play with on a daily basis.  Thankfully, he has one semester of Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits to help cover expenses this semester but law school is one of those endeavors where we are bringing student loan debt into our lives.  This decision obviously strays from Dave Ramsey’s teachings.  We take steps towards self-improvement and I would prefer to not be shamed for student loan debt; I do not make enough money to fully fund law school.  We considered ASU’s Employee Reduced Tuition but the reality is 100% of that tuition reduction is taxed for graduate programs and I am already working on a tight single income, the last thing I need is more money taken out of my paycheck at this time.  Now that we have a more transparent conversation (thanks for not judging me or keeping your opinion to yourself) I would like to share personal goals for the year.

My goals are broadly categorized under personal achievements, family activities, and home improvement.  Financial planning is important to each one of these endeavors.  I am in a place to either spend money for the results or I am saving money to complete the goal.    Although I am not outlining these as SMART (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-based) for your respective purposes as the reader, these qualities are important whenever you desire to see a goal through completion and I’m keeping these factors in mind for each goal.

In lieu of resolutions, here are my planning goals for 2017:

  1. Finish Pauline Nordine’s Butt Bible Challenge to restore fitness discipline into my life (Challenge runs January to March).
  2. Attend an adoption education event, free other than cost to get there.
  3. Add $1,000 to my daughter’s savings before the close of 2017.
  4. Pay for a one recipient’s scholarship for the Rising Stars, Desert Nights Writing Conference.
  5. Close a credit card account.
  6. Finish painting my master’s bathroom (February).
  7. Complete a family vacation (no visiting extending family).
  8. Attend a family member’s wedding.
  9. Add additional money to our emergency fund (i.e. amount will vary depending on overtime worked and additional income received this year).
  10. Finish first draft of memoir by October.
  11. Set up college fund accounts for nieces and my nephew to be born this year in lieu of gifts and clothes for Christmas.
  12. Visit family who have not seen my daughter since 2011.
  13. Set aside money for an adoption home study (approximately $1,200 to $1,800) before the end of the year. (Goal is to adopt in 2019)
  14. Replace our large bookcase with wall shelves (May/June).
  15. Purchase (1) PAX wardrobe for master bedroom (September/October).
  16. Put in Astroturf and extend patio slab (March/April).

Couples & Stress: Our Version

Recently, my husband and I volunteered to be participants in a study on couples and how they cope with stress.  Normally, I would suspect it would be difficult to encourage him to participate but there was a $70 cash incentive, which easily paid for some extra dining out this month.  We are such bad foodies…any opportunity to go out to eat makes us happy.  We love our food adventures.

What I wanted to mention though and I hadn’t thought of it at the time of the study, is our military experiences are not a source of stress in our relationship.  We both are there for each other through our health-related issues like our chest pains and other such issues.  We can talk about dealing with indirect fire on our deployments, our thoughts on poor leadership and the consequence it has on military service members (such as the Camp Bastion attack in 2012), and some of the sexual harassment I dealt with during my service.

We are different in a way because for many military couples, there’s the dynamic of the service member, typically a man, and the spouse or partner, typically a civilian woman.   Oftentimes, the civilian spouse/partner has little to no idea what kinds of things the service member encounters.  There are issues of operational security so only certain things can be shared and unfortunately, as well, there are times service members relay information they shouldn’t have.  There’s a reason why there’s a saying “Loose lips sink ships.”

When the civilian partner is also really young in the relationship (18-20 year old group) and the service member leaves for a combat deployment, there is a lot of discourse.  It doesn’t help as well that when you look biologically at people of this age, there is a lot of emotional development still occurring.  There tends to be a lot of emotional chaos at the same time that surrounds deployments.  In some ways, I’ve experienced my own share.  I had a partner who decided to end a relationship prior to my departure to Iraq and it changed our ability to remain friends afterwards.  I was curt in my email responses that he could not talk to me the same way he did while we were dating.  In the duration of that deployment though, he did send me one letter that revealed a side of him I did not experience throughout our courtship.  I had really wanted to know that I was loved and appreciated in our former relationship and he recognized that he lost something when I decided to date again.

It’s even things like I just explained that I continue to learn are safe subjects to have with my husband.  He made the decision to marry me and I equally made the same decision.  I cannot remember the full conversation in detail but we talked freely about marriage not as the entering into of a religious obligation for a longterm partnership, as others see and are taught the institution of marriage to be.

He is Agnostic and I consider myself a Christian although I do not follow an adherence to certain principles and have made my own share of mistakes according to the teachings of the church.  I don’t admonish people for having premarital sex.  I think it’s more important to teach sexual education as a means of overall health and safety.  It bothers me greatly that society still tends to teach a woman’s worth as attached to her sexuality.  There are mixed messages about being a virgin and being prudish.  There is the social positioning that women should be sexually attractive and yet at the same time, she is equally at risk of begin termed a whore, slut, or some other debasing slang term.  I don’t believe in abortion although I will not interfere with another’s right to one.  For example, a woman who is raped is someone I truly feel deserves the right to choose abortion if she feels she cannot deal with the unplanned pregnancy for mental health reasons.  I also believe abortion is acceptable if a woman’s health is at risk and she is interested in her own self-preservation.  She should not be denied the right to live in order to save her unborn child.  However, I also don’t believe people should get abortions because they neglected to use birth control appropriately.  I am friends with people who have gone through this situation and I think it’s important that we equally understand where each other is regarding this issue.

Anyways, I’ve gone incredibly off topic but I felt it was important to share where my views are a mixture of beliefs (part upbringing, part education, partly influenced by religion).  Getting back to what are forms of stress and happiness for us though…

One of the photos I carried with me on my 2004-2005 Iraq deployment.
One of the photos I carried with me on my 2004-2005 Iraq deployment. 

 
Family issues are #1 a source of stress for me.  I think anyone would agree it’s difficult at times when you have different beliefs compared to your parents, siblings, aunts & uncles, or grandparents.  Everyone was raised in different circumstances according to society’s beliefs at the time of upbringing; influence of friends, families, and other significant persons; specific limitations/abilities of each person; and so on.  We are unique as individuals and our personality types do not always mesh well together.  Trying to keep everyone happy is a big job and I do realize it’s not my responsibility anymore.  When I was younger, I tried really hard to be a kid who got good grades, stayed out of trouble, and overall, worked to meet the expectations of others.

In late June/July of 2005, after coming back from my first deployment, I realized it was a burden I no longer wanted or could carry.  I wasn’t just exhausted from pleasing everyone, but felt downright destroyed.  My relationship with my dad had fallen apart after trusting him to manage one of my student loans, which went to collections.  My relationship with my extended family felt strained because I was eager to serve my country and they were more concerned that I didn’t volunteer again for another deployment.  There were many other issues I encountered, but the most important thing I learned that year was knowing I was hurting myself by putting everyone else first.  I stepped back from a lot of people.  It was a scary thing to do but I knew that I wanted to finally live for myself and find my own path, even if it took years to get there.

In doing this stress survey, the issue “discovered” to be a shared point of stress was our financial attitudes.  It is no shock to me that it’s an issue that bothers us both greatly.  I’m more apt to feel like my money will be gone again if I don’t hoard some of it.  That happens when you’ve been unemployed twice.  I could care less if I am ever independently wealthy; what I don’t ever want to be again is poor.

The survey ends on a good note as we discussed our daughter, our shared joy.  She is soooo eager to one day be a big sister and it’s funny to see this behavior modeled in a small child.  While she enjoys our company, all she wants (for the most part) is a sibling.  We’ve tentatively talked to her about how families come in all shapes and sizes (one parent, two moms or two dads).  I think if we begin to think more seriously about adopting later, she would be thrilled.  We joked that she’d get to pick her sibling and my husband reminded me she really wants a sister.  However, should we choose adoption, Avery’s opinion on the matter is of upmost importance to us.  She is our only child and is old enough to be part of the conversation about the potential expansion of our family, should be have the urge to parent another child.  Neither he or I feels a biological child is a superior option to becoming parents; it’s not a sentiment shared among many people we know, but for us, an adopted child would be 100% ours, the way Avery was the moment we found out I was pregnant.